from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com:
Hoppers loss “like a big punch in the gut”
This one really hurt.
It was only one loss during the course of a 140-game season, but not many will leave a taste worse than the Hoppers’ 2-1 defeat by Rome Saturday night. Greensboro played superbly for eight innings and carried a 1-0 lead into the top of the ninth, only to surrender two runs and see it slip away.
“That was like a big punch in the gut right there,” said Hoppers manager Jorge Hernandez.
After giving up 10 runs and four homers to the Braves in Friday’s loss, the Hoppers’ pitchers righted themselves. Starter Ramon Del Orbe pitched five shutout innings, allowing just two hits. Jheyson Manzueta followed with two more scoreless innings, giving up two hits.
“Del Orbe had good sink on the ball and stayed down in the zone,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “He had a good changeup and slider and pitched with good tempo. Manzueta was sharp.”
Closer Blake Logan cruised through the eighth inning, retiring the Braves in order. But in the ninth, Logan hit leadoff batter Ronald Luna and that changed the whole scenario. It brought up Brian McCann, Atlanta’s all-star catcher on a rehab assignment, with no outs and a man on base.
“With nobody on base, it’s a different story,” Hernandez said. “But with a man on, now you have to go after him.”
After hitting two home runs Friday, McCann had been held in check with a flyout, groundout and strikeout. He took ball one, then turned on Logan’s second offering and smoked a double into the right field corner to score Luna. Rome sent in a pinch runner, who tagged and went to third on a deep flyout. Levi Hyams then singled in what turned out to be the winning run.
“I wanted to give him two innings,” McGinley said of the decision to bring in Logan in the eighth. “But he didn’t pitch smart (in the ninth) and he was flat in the zone. Once he hit the batter, McCann was up next (and tied the game) . Then there was a base open with a left-handed hitter (Hyams) up and he beat us. You should be careful there.”
The Hoppers’ offense couldn’t do much with Rome starter Mauricio Cabrera, who allowed three hits and walked two in seven innings. They did scratch out a run against him in the second when Jesus Solarzano doubled and scored on a single by Cody Keefer.
There was a golden opportunity in the sixth when Yeison Hernandez singled and Anthony Gomez walked and they moved up on a wild pitch with one out. But the runners had to hold on Matt Juengel’s groundout against a drawn-in infield. Viosergy Rosa then grounded out to end the inning.
“We had runners on second and third with one out,” Hernandez said. “We had the right hitters up but they couldn’t get the runners across.”
It was the fourth straight loss for the Hoppers, who will try to shake this one off and get back on track Sunday at 4 p.m. Andrew Steckenrider will start for Greensboro. McCann is scheduled to catch for Rome.